Did I Already Say it is Windy Here?

Just before I was scheduled to drive out to Grants, NM for a news assignment the publisher came to my desk and told me there was some sort of problem with the roof at the new Aquatic Center. So I figured 'how bad cab it be?' and headed over there on my way out of town. It was bad. The wind had peeled the one corner of the roof up and folded it back. The rest of the one side of the building was rattling and shaking. City employees were on the ground loading sandbags onto a large forklift and contractors were piling the heavy bags all along the one edge.

I tried to convince the forklift guy to let me ride up with the sandbags on the lift - get some shots as the guys were unloading the lift and placing the bags. Nope. He did tell me that there was a ladder onto the roof 'somewhere.' I looked around, he looked at one of the guys on the roof, pointed at me and made a motion like he was climbing a ladder. The guy o the roof nodded. I took that to mean it was all set for me to head up.

I didn't have to do too much detective work to find the stairway and then the ladder up to the top. As I stepped onto the roof the contractor (I think it was Rick Murphy, who was in charge ofbuilding the complex to begin with) was less than thrilled to see me. Said I couldn't be up there because I didn't have a hard hat. Now that was odd, because I had several images from the ground of the guys on the roof without hats, and even as I was standing there I spotted two guys without the hats. I finished climbing through the port in the roof and walked right past him to see the damage.

"You don't listen too good, do you?!?" he hollered. "Nope, I don't" was my reply. I am tired of always having people dictate what can and cannot be covered. Tired of the censorship. I was not out to make anybody look bad. I had nothing against the contractor and was not out to imply that there was shoddy workmanship. All I wanted was an imaghe to say 'Hey , look at what the wind did today!'

I only fired off a few frames and got down. Back on the ground one of the city guys asked me how it looked up there. The city people had not been able to get on top of their own building to see how bad it was...


When the Wind Blows

Yes, it gets windy in the spring-time in New Mexico. Roofs peel off buildings, signs are damaged and blown down. This week has been like that. While driving around I spotted a billboard laying flat on the ground with a small crew working on it. I introduced myself, talked to the workers a few minutes and made some images. The sign had not blown down completely, but had been damaged and the crew was working to replace the entire sign before it came down on its own and possibly hurt somebody.

This first image here is of one of the guys using a cutting torch. The sparks were falling down, and suddenly the wind gusted and blew them back up at him. His black short gave a good background to make the sparks stand out visibly.

This second image is all wrong - shot almost straight into the sun. Not much color, But I have been looking at the sameness of my images lately and trying to find somethign a little different to work on. So I decided that I would look at the shadows and lines and not worry so much about color.


Meat Packing plant story

One of our reporters told me that he was doing a story on a planned meat packing (and possibly slaughtering) plant that is planned for the west side of Gallup. Since the nearest plant the company has right now is on the other side of the state, and it is just in the planning phase now, the best way to illustrate the story was to find some animals in the area. The cattle shots here are my favorite. Unfortunately after I turned them in and was all set to call it a day I found out that the plant will only be handling sheep, and slaughtering them in a traditional Navajo way. So, tht left the cattle images on the proverbial cutting room floor. Fortunately I had also made a few images of sheep during the day...


Shooting at the High School...? Not Really

I guess I don't need to remind anybody how much I dislike the policies of our police department under the current Chief. Today was just one more thing to shake my head in bewilderment over.

The chatter on the police radio was to the effect that a man with a gun was wandering around at the high school. I did not hear the initial traffic, but got a couple of calls on my cell phone about it. I only live a few minutes away from the school and was on the scene pretty fast.

Now for those that are not familiar with Gallup, the high school is about 3/4 mile down a dead end road. A really long way off. They blocked the road at the the intersection and kept every movement hidden - like getting their entry guys ready behind an adjacent motel. It would have been nice for them to let me see them getting ready, get my photo outside of the perimeter and be out of everybody's way.

Of course that didn't happen and I started looking for other images to shoot. Not a lot to be seen from where I was allowed to be at, but I tried to show what was there.

The PIO (public information officer) drove by and she acknowledged the reporter and myself, saying she'd talk to us when she came back out. So we stood around and waited.

Then suddenly the fire truck that was parked in the hotel parking lot starts up and leaves. That is when I head him call the dispatch center and tell them that he is done with the exercise and RTB.

Yep. The whole thing was a training exercise. there was no school today because of the holiday, but teachers were in the building for training of their own. I later found out that there was an observation area inside the school that several school officials were inside watching from.

Logic would dictate that this would be the time that you want the attention and the coverage - show off what you are doing and make the tax-paying citizens more willing to trust that the department is prepared to handle things. Instead all the policies of the department do is make me wonder just what it is that they are feeling the need to hide from us-- incompetence perhaps? The more they say no access, the more a journalist wants to push and find out what is going on.


Guess what- Basketball...!

The main portion of the Arizona high school basketball season is over. Only one of our area teams is going to Phoenix (Glendale) for the semi-finals. The rest are out. So after being gone most of the week I got to come home today for what was my scheduled day off. And I went to cover a basketball game.

To be fair about it, the other two photographers had their hands full today, covering the Grants winter Quadrathlon at Mt. Taylor. With one of them stranded on the mountain until the race ended (they close the roads and not even media are allowed on the course these days) and the other hanging out at the finish line it was doubtful that they would be back in time for the game. Well, at least in time for the game as it was assigned. The sports desk had the game an hour earlier than it really was, and so by the time it finally started I was already chomping at the bit to go home and spend some time with my son.
I set up a pair of SB-800 flash units on light stands and set them off with Pocket Wizard transmitters and was able to light one portion of the floor. This was 1A girls action, and the first half was hont going well at all for the home team. Between them trailing, and the gym having a stage on one end for me to put the light stand on and no place safe on the other end (near the bathrooms and entrance) I decided to pack it in. Of course, leaving early meant that I didn't cover the game thoroughly, and I missed their comeback victory.


Yep, more basketball in Flagstaff

....and so the basketball tournament continues. Lots of games, and some decent action. I just wish the lighting was just a hair brighter in the Skydome... oh well, if it was easy then anybody could do the job.


Regional Tournament @ NAU-Flagstaff

I'm spending a couple of days this week in Flagstaff, Ariz at the NAU Skydome for basketball action. No really compelling personal stories to share, so just get right to the images and the accompanying captions.
Keisha Smith tries to console Robin Curleyhair after the Monument Valley Lady Mustangs lost by one point Wednesday in the first round of the Arizona 3A High school basketball tournament at the NAU Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Chinle Lady Wildcat Courtney Norberto (22) tries to make a basket but has the ball knocked from her hands by Alchesay's Michelle George (12) and is fouled Wednesday during the first round of the Arizona State Basketball tournament at the NAU Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz. The Lady Wildcats won 51-48.

Ganado Hornet Ryan Roanhorse (4) struggles to hang on to the ball Wednesday while Alchesay Falcon Isaac Roberts (22) tries to steal it away during the first round of the Arizona State 3A Basketball tournament at the NAU Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz. The Hornets lost 57-38.

Window Rock Scout Ephriam Sloan (33) takes a shot at the basket while Snowflake Lobos Derek Fusselman (22) tries to bat the ball away Wednesday night as the Fighting Scouts defeat the Lobos 73-43 during the first round of the Arizona State Basketball tournament at the NAU Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz.


Loyal Customer

Tommy Gasparich enjoys his daily bowl of oatmeal and cup of coffee Tuesday morning at Earl's Restaurant in Gallup, NM. Gasparich and Eurell Malone (lower photo) were recognized by Sharon Richards and Ralph Richards with fleece jackets that they were given in appreciation for their being loyal customers since Earl's opened in 1947.


Arizona Basketball play-offs

Today was our new photographer's first day on the job. So as a baptism by fire of sorts, I drove out with him to Chinle, Ariz. for the 3A North Regional basketball Championship games. This was the first season of play in the new sports complex in Chinle, and by half-time of the girls game the announcement was made that the 6,000 seat auditorium was completely sold out. To me, that is just plain 'Wow' for a high school basketball game. Anyway, here are the images I submitted to the paper.

This last image here was one I liked not because of the action, but because at first glance it gives the impression that the boy with the ball has four arms.


Basketball Tournaments Begin

That time of year again: Basketball playoffs. Today's game for me was the girls 1A North play-off match between St. Michael and Ash Fork. The Lady Cardinals got off to a slow start, but rallied to win 60-57. I had several images to select from, but the best two turned out to be of the same player. So here is St. Michael Lady Cardinal Tashina Machain (23) as she puts on her game face as she makes a move past Ash Ford Lady Spartan Jaimie Jackson (32) at the Window Rock Sports Complex in Ariz.

Carved in Sand and Stone

Lloyd Skacy uses a small pocketknife to carve a piece of Navajo sandstone at the Veteran's Memorial Park in Window Rock, Ariz. Skacy, currently living in Fort defiance, says that finding work in the area is hard and he has moved to several different places so he can try to earn a living as a construction worker.


Police Tactics

Under the direction of Gallup's chief of police, Sylvester Stanley, media access and relations with his department has spiraled out of control to where he has most of his officers behaving in very ridiculous ways to prevent us evil media types from doing our jobs. He has taken to blocking off fire scenes at great distances because they could potentially be crime scenes - see my post about the confrontation when the local Burger King had a kitchen fire and one of the officers physically shoved me.

Today was more of the same. The scanner reported that somebody had spotted a "10-7", police code here for a dead body. The area he was spotted was just south of the interstate, where there is a pedestrian/jogging path that runs along the Rio Puerco. The nearest cross street is Third Street, and with freeway on one side and the railroad yard on the other the only other access is where the railroad tracks go under the freeway near 7th street. I sent Matt to the scene, as I was trying to finish up for the day. Soon came the telephone call that the police had shut down the entire path for a range of more than 4 blocks, giving him no way to photograph the scene.

Since I knew the area and knew that the freeway is elevated there I got in my car with my 300mm and 1.4x tele-converter and headed out. I do not like the idea of parking on the freeway to get an image. But even more I loathe the games that the Gallup police department is playing. As I got there the dispatcher reported that the man was not deceased, just very intoxicated. I rattled off several frames and got back in my car.

It was not until I got back to the office and pulled up the files on my laptop that I realized that all three of the officers are having a great laugh about the situation. So, let me ask just what is so humorous about this whole thing? That we have so many people intoxicated in this town that we usually have two or three "public safety officers" on who do nothing but drive vans around to pick these lost souls up and take them to rehab? Is it funny that the police department is creating such an adversarial position with the media that we are no longer inclined to offer them the courtesy of protecting the identities of their undercover officers at scenes we go to? Maybe, and I am grasping here, just maybe they were laughing at my ability to sidestep their silly access restrictions. Not likely.

As a final note, Matt Hinshaw also made images of the EMTs putting this guy into an ambulance. We have always had a great working relationship with the Gallup fire fighters. One of the firemen told Matt that he didn't want to say anything to him because he was afraid of getting into trouble. This is like some type of cancer that is spreading in our city government. They need to just come right and say that photography is illegal in New Mexico, or admit that the police and certain other city personnel are incompetent and do not want to have anybody observe them doing their jobs because the ineptitude will be apparent.

Vice Presidentwith a History

Navajo Nation vice president Ben Shelly allowed myself and one of our reporters to come and visit with him for an hour this morning. He recognized me immediately from some dealings we had several years ago. He was one of the McKinley County Commissioners and he was pushing some agendas that were not very popular with the city residents. He had a strong opponent, Harry Mendoza, on the commission that was feeding us information about their differing viewpoints and the conflict made headlines. While trying to stay impartial to the whole mess it was difficult. I tried to let my images be honest about what was happening in the meetings.

The story today was more of a feature item, he has been in office for a month now, and since he is getting settled a bit, what is he going to do, what are his priorities etc. Through most of the interview he was slouched back in his chair and talking very openly about his ideas and opinions. It was a comfortable conversation to listen to, but the photos I was getting were less than flattering. So I asked him to sit forward at the end of the interview and the image looked better. Then his assistant came over and showed him a page from notes that he had written during the interview, and that was my preferred image.

During the interview he said that there was enough talking, and it was time to do some walking. I hope that he can. There are a lot of different opinions within the tribe, and a lot of them have agendas that are not the best for the whole of the Navajo people.


Car vs. Pedestrian

Gallup firefighters and EMTs from MedStar Ambulance move an injured pedestrian onto a gurney as they prepare to take him to the hospital Tuesday evening at the intersection of Maloney and US 491 in Gallup after he was struck by an SUV. The injured man was knocked unconscious by the impact and suffered cuts to his face, a broken leg and possible head injuries.

The police were being a little bit contrary today. Even though they had squad cars parked blocking off lanes and I was simply standing about five feet into one of the closed lanes, directly in front of a police car with traffic in the next lane completely stopped they decided I needed to be chastised and harassed for photographing this tennis shoe. I really have to wonder what it is that the department thinks our presence is doing that is so wrong. A year ago they posted a very large metal sign at the scene of a crime that was nonsense when you read it carefully, about how any photographs taken at the scene were done without the permission of the police department. It basically made it sound like we were violating some rule or law because we had not gotten clearance to make images of something in plain view. I think the chief of police and the city attorney need to study the Supreme Court rulings about the free press.

Totally shifting gears, this is a feature photo that I stumbled on after doing an advertising assignment downtown. I was interested in the shadow and the framing of the light pole around him added to the high contrast of the white paint he was adding to the wall. At first I was not really crazy about the way the light and sign framed him, but the more I study the image the more I like it. It is a different type of image than I usually make, using surroundings to give the scene and yet not having to go ultra-wide angle to do it.


MedStar Ambulance EMTS Albertina Watts and Alan Ashley check on the condition of a woman who was struck by a vehicle while riding her bicycle Monday morning at the intersection of Fourth Street and Maloney Avenue in Gallup. The unidentified cyclist was wearing a helmet and appeared to have only minor injuries, but was transported to Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital to be checked out.

This situation was minor, but it could have been more serious. The cyclist was wearing a helmet, but it doesn't change the fact that drivers around here do not pay enough attention to what they are doing. On a daily basis I witness people behind the wheel pull up to traffic lights and top with their vehicle completely blocking the crosswalks. I see people make right turns on red lights without even slowing down and acknowledging the fact that cars are coming the other way with a turn arrow.

I was on this scene even before the City cops were. I was only four blocks away and already in my car when the call came over the police radio. For once I was left alone by the police on scene, and one of them was actually pleasant to me and made a remark about how it was "pretty bad that you beat us here."


Girl's Basketball

Gallup Lady Bengal Cleo Crank (33) tests Rio Rancho Ram Ashley Rhoades (25) as she tries to move past her along the baseline Saturday night at Gallup High School. The Lady Bengals won 29-19.

Gallup Lady Bengal Telisha Joe (11) takes a jump shot over the hands of Rio Rancho Ram Mellissa Hillenbrand at Gallup High School.


Gas Class

Chris Saucedo, right, and Josh Halona fill vials with gasoline Thursday at Central High School in Gallup as they prepare test samples for an experiment to see how much water is in the gasoline that they purchased from area service stations.

Latisha Bowman, left, and Perlita Arteaga examine a vial of gasoline after it was processed in a centerfuge Thursday at Central High School in Gallup. Students in John Spaulding's biology and energy studies class were conducting experiments on the amount of calories in gasoline.